Band: An Isolated Mind | Album:A Place We Cannot Go | Genre: Post-rock, Drone, Avant-garde metal | Year: 2022
From: San Francisco, USA | Label: Independent
For fans of: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Boris’s droney stuff
An Isolated Mind is a one-man project based out of San Francisco. This act plays a chilling, lonely-sounding variety of experimental rock and metal. At one moment, the music may be a screaming wall of Arctic-cold guitars; and the next, it may be a gentle acoustic passage with alluringly warm keys and woodwinds.
I covered their debut album, I’m Losing Myself, in 2019, and I quite liked it. I was not the biggest fan of the pair of long drone experiments at the end of that record, but the preceding music was strong enough that I still put it on my year-end best-of list. A Place We Cannot Go is in the same musical vein, but there are obvious distinctions. This new release is less metallic, more contemplative, and better-focused.
A Place We Cannot Go opens with “Leaving”, a short, quiet song. An ambient drone gradually builds in volume, fostering a sense of anxiety and closeness. This short bit of atmospherics leads into “Cold Day”. Ragged clean guitars and piano build an echoing backdrop for distant-sounding vocals. This song moves into a harsher, more sinister direction, with the vocals shrieked and distorted as gloomy bass and wobbling synth play against each other. The instrumental passage of this song is dizzy and uneven, always feeling like it’s in danger of tipping over. Disorientation is one of this act’s strengths.
“Like a Hurricane, She Wept” opens with brash guitar and atonal organ. The rhythm is odd and lurching as the song staggers forward, but this cacophony mutates into something more digestible. A piercing organ chord hovers hauntingly over doom-laden metal. Diminished arpeggi roll forward, and the wordless vocals are highly emotive. The song ends on the winds of the titular hurricane suddenly ceasing.
This album’s title track is next. Gentle acoustic guitar and barely-audible vocals lend this a meditative feel. A woodwind instrument appears between verses and gives this song some much-appreciated warmth. Around this song’s midpoint, the music fades out, and a strange, keyboard part, reminiscent of 8-bit music, arises. Looping passages layer on top of one another as a buzzy noise briefly swells before abruptly ending.
“Platitudes” sounds like a cross between Kayo Dot and Car Seat Headrest. It has the despondent, gothic mood of Kayo Dot, but it’s paired against triumphal-sounding synth arrangements. The guitar is squiggly at parts and growling in others. At the midway point, following a brief rest, the music bursts forth, distorted, blown-out, and squalling. This is the harshest, most abrasive passage yet. Hardly anything can be parsed from this snarling wall of noise, but its sheer intensity is the point.
“Truth Is Not Enough” follows. The guitar and drums are plodding, and woodwinds squeak anxiously at the periphery. It eventually settles into a steady groove, and I’m quite fond of the lead synth in this passage. Most of the preceding songs, while good, have felt disjointed at times, but this one feels coherent and well-structured, with a logical and pleasing buildup.
The preceding song could be thought of as the album’s climax, and its final song, “Mourning”, acts as something of an epilogue. A drone experiment, this song starts with a stuttering keyboard line that fades in slowly. Around the midway point, chimes and wordless vocals enter, reinforcing this song’s meditative nature. Woodwinds again come in to lend an eerie atmosphere. This one eight-minute drone piece is much more digestible than the combined 25 minutes of drone on their debut.
A Place We Cannot Go is an emotionally intense record. The songwriter’s internal anguish is evident across these seven songs. Post-rock is a good vessel, as it often plays with harsh tones and sharp contrasts, and those facets are utilized excellently on this album.